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County Advises Oysters are Safer to Eat When Cooked

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July 23, 2010

Eating raw oysters is a favorite indulgence of many people during summer months, but eating them uncooked could increase your risk for gastrointestinal illness.  

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) is advising the public to be aware of the potential health dangers and risks associated with eating raw oysters.

“Thoroughly cooked oysters reduce the risk of illness from bacteria,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “It is important for consumers to know about the risks of eating raw oysters.”

HHSA recommends eating oysters that are from a safe and approved source.

If preparing your own oysters, it is important to only purchase oysters with the shells closed and to properly refrigerate them to minimize the growth of bacteria.

Cooking oysters thoroughly destroys the bacteria, eliminating the risk of illness. Oysters should be boiled for an additional three to five minutes after the shells open.  Wash your hands well after handling raw oysters.

Occasionally, oysters have been found to contain Vibrio parahaemolyticus, a common type of bacteria in salt water, typically found in higher concentrations during summer. When an oyster containing these bacteria is eaten, gastrointestinal symptoms such as watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills may occur. While Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection from eating raw oysters can cause mild illness in healthy individuals, older people and those with liver disease or weak immune systems are at greater risk for more serious complications.

If you suspect that you or your family are ill from the Vibrio bacteria, you should contact your health care provider.  For more information, visit or, or call the FDA Food Safety hotline at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.     

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